Since the lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus pandemic loosened in the Himalayan country of Nepal, many who have lost jobs and owners of small businesses that have been hit hard by the pandemic have joined the gig economy to earn a living.
A vast majority of these Nepalese have opted to work as riders on ride-sharing platforms such as Pathao and Tootle, reports the Kathmandu Post.
Data from Pathao and Tootle showed a huge surge in the number of new applicants wanting to sign up and work as riders in the midst of a pandemic.
Pathao Nepal's senior manager Shashank Shumsher Thapa said the platform's was inundated with queries from people wanting to sign up on the platform starting from June this year.
A similar situation was at Tootle also.
"We were seeing anywhere between 80 to 100 new applicants daily," said Sixit Bhatta, co-founder of Tootle.
But during the first few weeks following the lockdown, with many people reluctant to step outside their homes, demand for rides on ride-sharing platforms was low.
"Given the low demand, it didn't make sense for us to accept new applicants because that would mean existing riders on the platform would end up getting much fewer rides," said Thapa.
However, Pathao soon started receiving messages from people saying how they have lost jobs, their businesses have suffered immensely and that they desperately need the gig as a rider to make a living with.
"So for the first few weeks after the lockdown, we decided to screen and accept riders on a case-by-case basis to ensure that those who were financially struggling due to the pandemic have a chance to get on board the platform and at the same time not significantly disrupt the supply-demand balance," said Thapa.
Since the lockdown loosened, riders on Pathao are also taking twice the number of rides they used to before the pandemic, Thapa said.
"This trend clearly shows that the number of riders who rely on the platform for their livelihood has increased significantly," Thapa said.
"To be honest, I am making more money working as a rider than I used to work at the financial investment company. My salary then was Rs 19,000 a month. But now I make that amount in around 20 days," said one rider working for Pathao.
"When you are riding for hours on a daily basis, you are obviously more predisposed to auto accidents. And if a rider injures himself/herself, they are on their own. That's a huge risk for riders," the rider added.
"But then in the present scenario, those who are doing it full time are doing so out of desperation. The bills have to be paid."